Professional Hockey and Urban Development: A Historical Case Study of the Vancouver Arena, 1911-1914

By Wong, John Chi-Kit | Urban History Review, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Professional Hockey and Urban Development: A Historical Case Study of the Vancouver Arena, 1911-1914


Wong, John Chi-Kit, Urban History Review


This paper investigates the Vancouver Arena, also known as the Denman Street Arena, and its impact in the immediate six city blocks along Georgia street between Bidwell and Chilco streets. An enterprise of the Patrick family, the Vancouver Arena was built in 1911 to house the Vancouver Professional Hockey Club in the new Pacific Coast Hockey Association, also a Patrick family undertaking. Prior to the Second World War, sport entrepreneurs generally subscribed to the principle of free enterprise, which eschewed government interference. Unlike professional team owners of today, they viewed government financial aid as corporate welfare, an idea antithetical to the capitalistic tendencies of business owners at the time. These early sport promoters usually raised capital through means other than government largess. Municipalities, on the other hand, did not consciously include sport facilities as part of their urban planning. Unlike in stadium and arena projects today, there were no efforts made by promoters to link the construction of a sport facility with the economic health of the city. The case of the Vancouver Arena demonstrates that a sport facility had minimal impact on its immediate vicinity, but the larger economic climate of the city and region had a more significant influence.

Cet article analyse l'arena de Vancouver, aussi connu sous le nom de l'arena de la rue Denman, et son impact sur les six pates de maisons immediats le long de la rue Georgia entre les rues Bidwell et Chilco. Une entreprise de la famille Patrick, l'arena de Vancouver a ete construit en 1911 pour abriter la club de hockey professional de Vancouver de la nouvelle Association de hockey de la cote du Pacifique, aussi une entreprise de la famille Patrick. Avant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les entrepreneurs sportifs etaient generalement des adeptes de la libre entreprise, qui evite l'interference du gouvernement. Contrairement aux proprietaires des equipes professionnelles d'aujourd' hui, ils voyaient l'aide financiere du gouvernement comme une aide sociale aux entreprises, une idee antithetique pour les tendances capitalistes des gens d'affaires de l'epoque. Ces premiers promoteurs de sport avaient l'habitude d'amasser des fonds par des moyens autres que la generosite gouvernementale. Les municipalites par contre, n'incluaient pas les installations sportives parmi leurs amenagements urbains. Contrairement aux projects de stades et d'arenas d'aujourd'hui, les promoteurs ne s' efforcaient pas d'etablir un lien entre la construction d'une installation sportive et la sante economique de la ville. Il est demontre dans le cas de l'arena de Vancouver qaue l'installation sportive a eu un impact minimal sur son environnement immediat, mais que le climat economique de la ville et de la region a eu une influence plus importante.

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After the end of the Second World War, the construction of sport facilities for professional sport teams increasingly involved public subsidies. Especially in the late twentieth century, this trend attracted much scholarly attention. Researchers began to investigate public financing of state-of-the-art stadiums and arenas in order to retain or attract professional sport franchises that were mostly privately owned. (1) In particular, many of these investigations concentrated on claims of potential benefits of sport facilities to the local community as justifications for these large-scale projects. Proponents of publicly funded sport facilities had argued that a sport facility contributed to a "major league" image of the city, urban renewal, and growth in the local economy. Indeed, many municipal governments incorporated the construction of professional sport facilities as part of their strategy for urban economic development. (2)

The pattern of building sport facilities involving public subsidies has changed over the latter half of the twentieth century, but it did not emerge until after the 1960s. …

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